Re: Common House Laundry Survey
From: katie-henry (
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 10:45:42 -0800 (PST)
Since Robert mentioned Eastern Village, I feel compelled to describe our 
laundry arrangement and provide some random thoughts about the associated 
issues, now that we've been moved in for a year and have some perspective. 

We're a multi-family building with 56 households. All units include a utility 
closet that is plumbed and vented for a W/D, but a lot of us preferred not to 
spend the money, given the convenience of the laundry room, or wanted to use 
the closet space for other things. As Robert mentioned, if you're building 
single-family homes, more households are going to want their own W/D.

We designed a laundry room with space for 3 washers, 3 dryers, a big sink, and 
space for folding tables and racks. Since we didn't know what the demand would 
be, we decided to start with 2 washers and 2 dryers. This has proven to be 
enough for now. Over time we've learned when peak usage hours are and we 
self-schedule to avoid crunches. In my situation, for example, there were four 
or five of us who were always competing for machines at 11pm on Sunday night, 
and I believe we've all found other times that work well.

Our laundry room is nowhere near the kitchen, so no issues there.

To track usage, we keep a notebook in the laundry room and people are asked to 
make a note of how many loads they do. Someone recently tallied up the units 
that use the laundry room, and I believe it was 30. I suspect some of these 
users have W/D in their units and use the laundry room for overflow -- families 
with kids, probably. 

One thing we did that is working out well is leasing the equipment instead of 
buying it. Most companies that lease equipment are compensated by taking a 
percentage of the income, with the rest of the money going to the community. 
Since we started out not charging, we wanted to pay a flat monthly fee. We had 
to do a little digging to find a company that would work that way. They come 
out promptly and service the equipment when needed. If something dies, they 
replace it. (In theory, anyway. Hasn't happened yet.) In a large, sophisticated 
multi-family building, it's a big relief to have one less category of equipment 
that needs to be maintained and budgeted for in the reserves, etc. 

When we were designing the laundry room, there was a lot of community 
enthusiasm for getting one each of the giant oversized W/D -- the kind you can 
do rugs and blankets in. We ended up not getting them, but nobody seems too 

We are starting to discuss charging for the use of the machines to recover the 
cost of the lease fee and the utilities. It's a sticky issue since (1) this 
will be the only amenity that individual users will be expected to pay for, 
which may or may not be un-cohousing, and (2) it's complicated to calculate the 
actual cost per load since we have common building-wide hot water, so we can't 
charge for that, but how do we calculate the electricity, bla bla bla. I think 
we are moving towards a voluntary donation policy just to avoid the drama and 
get things moving.

Cleaning has been interesting. We have a paid cleaning service that cleans the 
common areas twice a week, but they don't do the laundry room or other 
dedicated rooms. For a while nobody was cleaning the laundry room at all and it 
was pretty disgusting, but the regular users organized and came up with a 
cleaning schedule, and now it usually looks pretty good. I'm not crazy about 
the large amount of line-dry clothing that gets left draped around, but I can 
live with it.

You may need to discuss what products (detergents, fabric softeners, etc.) can 
be used in the laundry equipment in case of chemical sensitivity. We've never 
discussed it. I know that one of our members is bothered by the dryer sheets 
some people use, but she's not prepared to make an issue out of it. I'd say 
most of us use various eco products sold at Whole Foods, which is probably a 
good start.

Well! Enough about laundry. I don't post often, but I make up for it in length.

Eastern Village Cohousing
Silver Spring, MD

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